On how Orkut became a rage in India

Note: This is my last blog post here for the next six days. There’s already lots that I want to/have to/been asked to blog, so kindly bare…erm…bear with me.

Around three months ago, I got an email from Orkut; someone I hadn’t heard from for almost a year had sent a private message. I responded, and added a “switch to mail” line at the end of the email. I got another private message in response.

That has been my problem with Orkut – I have to log in to read messages, but at the same time, the wait is enticing, in a strange way. As the suspense builds, one feels almost compelled to respond – even if it is to just subject others to the same kind of suspense. That’s silly, I know, and my messages almost always are silly: that now famous evil grin is plastered across my face whenever I send a message via Orkut.

Ajit Balakrishnan, CEO and founder of Rediff, at the TiE-ISB Connect summit which is being covered by Rajat Gupta for ContentSutra, said that he really has no clue about what works for sites featuring user generated content, and what doesn’t. There are several sites with user generated content (I prefer to use the term ‘participative business model’ for Web 2.0) which don’t get the traffic or business. One can blame the lack of marketing for the same, but that isn’t always the case. Different tipping points for different successes.

So, what worked for Orkut in India?

I think it was the integration with Google Accounts, which served as a reminder that – Hey! You’d registered here.

Lots of people I know tend to sign up with social/business networking websites, and then forget about them. I signed up at Orkut, Everyone’s Connected and Hi5 (and maybe others) when was invited, only to see what they were all about.

With the reminder, and aided by the GMail sign in, lots of people might have gone for a second look, all around the same time. They must have messaged old pals, and all of a sudden, the number of conversations taking place would have shot up. The word of mouth followed, and Orkut usage in India increased.

The Google Account integration took place around a year ago, and one began hearing about Orkut becoming popular around eight months ago.

One thing to note about the Orkut reminder mail is that unlike Ryze or Everyone’s Connected, one doesn’t get frequent reminders from Orkut. So, a once in a year system message from Orkut gets noticed while a weekly message from Ryze gets deleted. People noticed that mail, read it, and visited Orkut to give it a second shot.

Agree/disagree? Let me know.

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